Georgia Doctor Pleads Guilty in Pill Mill Case
BRUNSWICK, GA – Paul Spencer Ruble, 63, a doctor from Thomson, Georgia, pleaded guilty today in federal court before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to a charge of conspiracy to unlawfully dispense controlled substances and launder money.
The information to which Ruble pleaded charged that beginning in November 2011, he and other conspirators began operating Apex Health & Wellness, Inc., a phony pain management clinic, from a building located at 6129 New Jesup Highway, Brunswick, Georgia. The clinic employed Ruble, a licensed and registered medical doctor, to work at Apex Health & Wellness, Inc. Between November 2011 and April 24, 2013, drug-seeking customers typically paid between $200 and $300 cash to Apex Health & Wellness, in exchange for prescriptions for controlled substances issued outside the usual course of professional practice and without legitimate medical purpose. Ruble wrote prescriptions for vast quantities of controlled substances, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, and alprazolam (Xanax), outside the usual course of professional practice and without legitimate medical purpose. An average of 30 drug seeking patients were seen per day at the clinic during its 17 months of operation. A typical patient could expect to receive a prescription for 168 oxycodone 30 mg tablets, 112 oxycodone 15 mg tablets, and 28 to 56 2 mg alprazolam tablets.
The Apex Health & Wellness clinic was shuttered April 24, 2013 when a federal search warrant was executed at the premises. The unlawful business was very profitable until being shut down. During the conspiracy, more than 400 deposits were made to bank account of Apex Health & Wellness. These deposits were mostly comprised of cash paid by patients at Apex Health & Wellness for controlled substances prescribed without legitimate medical purpose. The deposits totaled over $1.8 million, including cash deposits of over $1.7 million. Ruble was paid just under $500,000 for his services at Apex which he then laundered through several other bank accounts.
Ruble faces a maximum penalty of not more than 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for his conviction. The owner of the clinic, Marc Frazier, 46, of Satellite, Beach, Florida, pleaded guilty to a similar charge in July 2015 and is awaiting sentencing.
The convictions in this matter resulted from a joint investigation by the DEA, GBI, Glynn-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team (GBNET), IRS - Criminal Investigations, and the United States Marshals Service. The investigation was conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, the keystone drug enforcement program of the Department of Justice.
United States Attorney Edward Tarver said, “The devastation caused to human lives by prescription drug abuse cannot be overstated. Patients at pill mills such as this one can expect to lose money, health, time, family, employment, and happiness. The heroin epidemic which is sweeping many parts of the country can be traced directly to these phony medical clinics where the owners and doctors prosper and the patents suffer grievously. Persons who operate pill mills in the Southern District of Georgia can expect to be investigated, prosecuted, and sent to prison in the same way as other drug traffickers who push poison in our communities.”
Daniel R. Salter, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division, said, “It is a sad commentary when a trusted person in the medical community attempts to hide behind the veil of legitimacy to commit criminal acts. The reckless distribution of pharmaceuticals results in addiction and death. Many thanks to the hard-working law enforcement partners who worked this case.”
Jamie Jones, Special Agent in Charge of the GBI Southeastern Regional Drug Enforcement Office, observed, “This investigation shows that the GBI, in conjunction with Local and Federal partners, is dedicated to eradicating pill-mill operations. The prescriptions obtained from these type of pill mill clinics are most often sold or diverted on the streets, feeding pain pill addictions and ruining families and lives.”
Kevin Jones, Chief of the Brunswick Police Department, noted, “It has been a focused effort of GBNET to drive these types of illegitimate businesses out of Brunswick and Glynn County and to bring those responsible for this activity to justice.”
Assistant United States Attorneys Greg Gilluly, Marcela Mateo, and Karl Knoche prosecuted the case for the government. For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.